« 100 YEARS – 100 LIVES » | ZAMBIA - “Solar power is good for the environment and simply cheaper for us”

How an ILO project helped a 52-year-old mother of seven children to learn green skills that made it possible for her to build eco-friendly houses and install solar panels, providing power to communities who previously had very little access to electricity.

Reportage | Zambia |
LUSAKA - Situated in south-central Africa and bordering eight countries, Zambia is approximately three times the size of the UK. Endowed with natural resources such as copper and hydropower, it ranks among the top 10 fastest growing economies in Africa.

Growth, however, has not had much positive impact for the majority of Zambian people who are still living below the poverty line, often surviving on less than U$ 1.25 per day. Additionally, growth industries such as mining and construction sectors have taken their toll on the environment (through land degradation, energy consumption and pollution).

Faced with unemployment – especially among women and youth, high levels of inequality and poverty, as well as a housing backlog and a number of environmental challenges, the government of Zambia has launched a Green Jobs Programme supported by the ILO and other UN agencies that promotes green technologies in the construction sector.

Installing solar panels

Emmery Matongo is a 52 years-old woman and a proud mother of seven children. After her husband died in 2001, she joined forces with some of the other women from the Kalulushi compound, in the Copperbelt Province, mostly widows like her.

After buiding their own houses with eco-friendly bricks, they installed solar panels and even created their own company. "This will help us escape from poverty,” Matongo said.

For these women, building their own houses with green technologies wasn't enough. Like most people in Zambia's rural areas, they are off the grid. Without electricity, families must either spend hours in the dark or use dangerous, expensive alternatives such as kerosene, candles and charcoal.

New “green jobs” skills

As part of the Zambia Green Jobs Programme, Emmery Matongo and a few others were trained in solar panel assembly and installation. Not only this changed the daily lives of all villagers, it also opened new livelihood prospects for women.

“Solar power is better than the regular electricity. When everyone else in the country experiences power cuts, we still have electricity. It is also good for the environment and it’s cheaper,”Matongo explained.

After successfully building their houses and installing solar panels, the women also installed a greenhouse to further increase their production capacity.growing more vegetables for the market and help them repay their loan.

The entire experience has given them new confidence as well as valuable entrepreneurial and “green jobs” skills they can use on the labour market.

“We registered a company and we want to start making solar panels on a large scale. We are going to create jobs making solar panels,” Matongo proudly added.

Going green

As the knowledge on the benefits of green building technologies is spreading, society mindset towards sustainable development is changing too.

Yetambuyu Imasiku is a 22-year-old student in urban and regional planning at Copperfield University.

“Among my friends and my family I have noticed there is a need and a change to go green. The whole world is moving towards green energy. I hope to be a pioneer in moving my community forward," she concluded.

The Green Jobs Programme in Zambia promotes the development of sustainable enterprises by boosting competitiveness and business growth thanks to green technologies. It works with local micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and partners with multinational companies that are investing in the country.

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